Mon 24 Jun 2024

Two reasons why ERC ace Heikkilä can fly high in Estonia

Mikko Heikkilä will prepare for next week’s FIA European Rally Championship-counting Delfi Rally Estonia with a double boost.

Having landed his maiden 2024 ERC podium on BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia in second position, the 2022 Finnish champion went one better when he claimed overall San Marino Rally glory last weekend.  

The event, part of the Campionato Italiano Rally Terra (Italian Gravel Rally Championship), provided Heikkilä with an opportunity to take his second win of the season in the national-based series. And the 32-year-old duly delivered.  

Driving a Step Five Motorsport-run Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 on Michelin tyres, Heikkilä was fastest on four of the nine stages to win ahead of Tommaso Ciuffi by 16.4sec. ERC regular Simon Wagner finished third.  

“This is a nice way of celebrating the Finnish holiday Midsummer,” said Heikkilä, who was co-driven by fellow Finn Kristian Temonen. “I feel like I wasn’t performing quite at my best, but I’m happy it was enough for the victory. It’s been a struggle for the past two events in the Italian championship, but I’m glad today turned out for the better for us.  

“We got quite a good base set-up for the rally and the car and team were performing flawlessly, so a big thank you to Step Five. The stages were amazing, quite slow and technical overall, and gave out good experience from these kinds of stages. It was surprisingly slippery throughout the rally, even after the stages were cleaned up, they still stayed quite slippery. Nevertheless, a great event overall and some good experience from these types of roads.”  

Heikkilä’s San Marino Rally victory followed his runner-up placing on BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia on 15 June, which he also achieved driving a Michelin-equipped Toyota.

“Finally we had a trouble-free weekend, not any issue with the car or anything so it was just all about me,” Heikkilä said of his strong result in Sweden. “I’m quite happy with what we managed to do. The pace in general was all the time quite good, just a few small mistakes. We were losing to Oliver [Solberg] and Hayden [Paddon] but it doesn’t really matter because they are really fast drivers so this is very good.”  

Heikkilä had been in a close battle for third place with Mathieu Franceschi starting the Power Stage but came out in second position after Hayden Paddon was delayed by a damaged tyre. Franceschi, who was in fourth place ahead of the Power Stage, crashed out.  

“I’m so sorry for Hayden, if I could decide I would be third but that’s how it is sometimes and sorry for Franceschi also,” Heikkilä said. “I know the feeling [of having trouble on the Power Stage] and that’s why I don’t want that for anybody else. It’s quite annoying but that’s rally.”  

Asked how much pressure he was feeling from the chasing Franceschi, Heikkilä added: “In the regrouping [before the Power Stage] I felt some pressure but then I spoke with Kristian and the pressure was relieved before the stage, so it was quite okay. It was just normal driving that we have been doing all weekend and luckily I was able to get my head together.”  

Delfi Rally Estonia, which takes place from 5 -7 July, is up next for Heikkilä and his ERC rivals and another opportunity for the Finn to build on recent success.  

“Of course it’s nice to have some results before Estonia,” Heikkilä said. “The Estonia stages are a bit softer but it’s also a really fast event. Everybody knows the level will be really high so it will be tough again but let’s try. I’m feeling quite good and it was fine for me that I was behind Oliver and Hayden [in Sweden].”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM